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Neuron. 2009 Dec 10;64(5):730-43. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2009.11.018.

Flexibility of sensory representations in prefrontal cortex depends on cell type.

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Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY 14642, USA.


Discrimination tasks require processing, interpreting, and linking sensory information to the appropriate motor response. We report that neurons in prefrontal cortex (PFC) represent visual motion with precision comparable to cortical neurons at early stages of motion processing, and readily adapt this representation to behavioral context. We found that direction selectivity, recorded while the monkeys discriminated directions, decreased when they judged motion speed and ignored its direction. This decrease was more pronounced in neurons classified as narrow-spiking (NS) putative interneurons than in broad-spiking (BS) putative pyramidal neurons. However, during passive fixation, when the link between motion and its behavioral relevance was removed, both cell types showed a severe selectivity loss. Our results show that flexible sensory representation during active discrimination tasks is achieved in the PFC by a specialized neuronal network of both NS neurons readily adjusting their selectivity to behavioral context, and BS neurons capable of maintaining relatively stable sensory representation.

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